Traveling Heaven and Hell with Tech Support: Page 2

Datamation's Drew Robb compares tech support to the stages of Dante's Divine Comedy -- heaven, hell and purgatory. Which one is your company in and how do you get out of it if you need to?
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Finally, we reach heaven, where support goes beyond the expected.

''We can't think of a better way to improve loyalty and satisfaction than through personalized customer service,'' says Kramer of the Seybold Group.

Robert Johnson, IT manager for FKP Architects in Houston, Tx. tells of the support he got one time from Westlake village, Calif.-based CaminoSoft Corp. when an operator error corrupted the mirroring server at FKP's branch office in Dallas.

''I went up to Dallas and it was a hornets' nest,'' he says. ''I called CaminoSoft and got a hold of two different engineers who stayed on the phone with me for eight hours that day. They made sure I was able to recover all the volumes, and before I left that night the server was running.''

He then returned to Dallas the next weekend with the now repaired primary server. He put it back into the tree to get it to mirror, but there were still some problems.

''Although it was the weekend, they called me back within 15 minutes and stayed with me till the end,'' Johnson adds. ''Tech support walked me through what I needed to do to get it fixed and they've been running rock solid ever since.''

Dean Atkins, president of Timeless Images in Olympia, Wa., tells of what happened when one of his employees deleted 4GB of photos from the National Gymnastics Championships.

''I was up all night, sick to my stomach,'' he says. ''How do you tell over 40 competitors and their parents that all of the photos that they've already seen and picked from are now lost?''

At 6:30 that morning he was poking around in the program file folder of the recovery bin software and noticed a sub-folder called ''Emergency Delete.'' He called the vendor, Executive Software, Inc. based in Burbank, Ca., for help.

''Lance Jensen in Tech Support very patiently, very meticulously walked me through the steps of trying to recover these precious files,'' Atkins says. ''Out of 2,149 deleted files, I successfully recovered 2,132. I only lost 17 files and of those, only 14 were images.''

But top notch vendors don't wait for there to be a problem before they provide help. Rice says that, unlike the large vendor mentioned earlier, the company that created his network management software -- Somix Technologies, Inc. of Sanford, Maine -- provides superior service. He has a service contract and once a year a technician comes on site to update the software and do any other work needed.

But Somix' support efforts aren't limited to solving problems that Rice or his crew asks the technician to address.

''One time, the technicians asked me how I backed up my routers,'' Rice says. ''We were doing it manually, so he said, 'Here is a little program I wrote that backs up all the router configurations and stores them in files.' ''

Using that piece of software, the county now backs up all its routers automatically at 3 a.m. every day. Then, when one goes down, they can just download the configuration and copy it into the new router.

Support Salvation

According to Dante, new arrivals in hell are greeted by the sign, ''All hope abandon, ye who enter here!''

But, like any morality tale, the message of this story is not about abandoning hope, but of seeking salvation. As Johnson's, Atkin's and Rice's stories illustrate, there are companies out there which do deliver decent service.

So, when stuck in support hell, or made to wait far too long, there is another option. Instead of abandoning all hope, abandon the vendor and find someone who wants your business, and shows you via their tech support department that they genuinely care about your concerns.

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